here’s not much dispute that we continue to spend more and more time online, and thus less time out in the real world. How many of us have more “friends” than friends? It’s gotten so that anyone who doesn’t spend the bulk of their waking hours plugged in is viewed askance, as eccentric if not downright reactionary.
Sometimes I wonder what the inevitable backlash will look like. Most of know someone who proudly proclaims their net avoidance the way some vegans do with their diet. We’ve heard of cafés advertising that they’re not a wireless hotspot. Even so, with ever more content becoming available online—many newspapers have given up on paper; even the Encyclopedia Britannica now exists solely online—the trend toward ever greater chunks of our lives spent online seems irreversible.
But one positive step backward, if that makes sense, is being taken by tugg.com, a new “collective action web-platform.” Tugg.com’s focus is on seeing movies the old fashioned way: in the dark, with friends, at an actual movie theater.
We’re in a very weird time, media distribution-wise. Online distribution via streaming continues to grow—Netflix alone can account for up to 32% of total Internet traffic on any given day—but that carries its own pitfalls: that same Netflix makes little or no effort to acquire independent films for its streaming library. The presence of new media distributers like IndieFlix continues to expand, but we’re not there yet, where every film can find its perfect audience.
Tugg.com has a possible solution. In the old model, a typical independent film was given limited distribution: only in the venues where it was expected to draw enough of an audience to make a profit for the exhibitor. Indies have always had more to prove in this area than studio films. These days, as theater attendance continues to dwindle, a film that’s perceived to have a small audience suffers even more.
But tugg.com has taken a leaf out of the airlines’ book. When airlines charged enough per ticket to cover empty seats and last minute changes, air travel was a privilege of the rich: the Jet Set. As air travel became more of a necessity than a privilege, the airlines’ challenge was to lower ticket prices by filling every seat.
Theatrical distribution finds itself in a similar spot. Empty theaters do not pay the rent. So any film that’s less than likely to fill up a whole theater at every screening leaves them with two choices: charge more for the tickets, or get more butts into the seats.
Tugg.com’s version of this model is to use social media to gather together enough moviegoers to fill a theater. Through tugg.com, in collaboration with participating distributors and exhibitors, you can suggest a title and a time, and then try to get all your friends—and their friends, etc.—to commit to attending the screening too. Once the required number of RSVPs is met, the event is confirmed, and tugg handles all the arrangements.
Essentially, tugg.com is a crowd-sourced film festival. This idea holds enormous potential not only for indie filmmakers in search of an audience, but also classic film retrospectives for cinefiles like me.NOTES: